U.S. Senate Unanimously Approves Julie Fisher As New Ambassador To Minsk

The Senate of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday unanimously approved the candidacy of Julie Fisher for the post of the new ambassador to Minsk, TASS reports with reference to a live broadcast of the parliamentary session.

Julie Fisher will become the first Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Belarus since 2008.

Photo credit: United States Department of State

In April, President Donald Trump announced his intent to put Julie Fisher in charge of the diplomatic mission in Belarus. And in early May, the U.S. leader sent his nomination of Julie Fisher for consideration to the U.S. Senate. In September, the U.S. Senate’s foreign affairs committee recommended approving Fisher’s nomination.

In mid-September, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said: “We believe it’s very important for the United States to have a representative in Belarus that can give a voice to the policies of the United States of America and strongly represent the values and interests that we believe are important to address in our relations with Belarus.

I have noted with great encouragement the presence of several of our partners’ ambassadors in standing side by side with brave members of the Coordinating Council, like Svetlana Alexievich, and I very much look forward to having a United States ambassador standing side by side with her colleagues in Belarus in defense of the Belarusian people.”

Julie Fisher previously served as the Deputy Permanent Representative of the U.S. Mission to NATO. She has also served in assignments at the U.S. Embassies in Tbilisi, Kyiv and Moscow. The diplomat speaks Russian, French and a little Georgian.

Before the election in Belarus on 9 August, Fisher said: “As Secretary Pompeo clearly stated during his visit to Minsk, we fully support Belarus’s desire to make its own choices, pursue its own partnerships, and play a constructive role in the region. We respect its sovereignty and self-determination. Belarus should not be forced to depend on any single nation for its prosperity or security, and we are not asking Belarus to choose between East and West. Countries, much like individuals, choose their friends but not their neighbors.”

She then also noted that after the Belarusian government’s decision in March 2019 to lift its cap on staffing, the number of American employees at Embassy Minsk had already grown from ten to fourteen, and would grow further. The date of Fisher’s departure to Minsk has not yet been announced.

12-year break

The cap on the U.S. diplomats in Minsk dates back to 2008 when Belarus expelled the U.S. ambassador retaliating for the sanctions Washington had imposed for violation of human rights and untransparent elections. Minsk withdrew its ambassador and staff accordingly.

Between 2008 and 2018 the quota was gradually expanded from 5 to 10 diplomats as relations between the U.S and Belarus started to thaw. The embassies in Minsk and Washington are still headed by charge d’affaires.  The normal size of a U.S. embassy in a country like Belarus is about 30 diplomats plus local staff.

This January, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei reportedly called U.S. Assistant State Secretary Wess Mitchell to inform him about the decision to lift a long-standing cap on the number of U.S. diplomats in the country. In March, Vladimir Makei met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and officially announced the lifting of restrictions on the number of employees of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.

On 3 February, U.S. President Donald Trump submitted for the approval of the United States Congress the candidacy of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Europe and the European Union Julie Fisher to the post of the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus. The next day Vladimir Makei said that Belarus was ready to send its ambassador to the U.S. within a few months.

And on 20 July, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko was appointed Ambassador of Belarus to the United States.

Source: TUT.BY